After a review of 30 services across England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) concluded that care services are generally safe and effective but there are issues with recruitment processes and medicine management.
In particular, the CQC noted that significant improvements have been made since the government released a review in 2010 that criticised the system. For example, the CQC report found that fewer locum GPs are used by services and patient involvement is actively being encouraged. Inspectors also found that the majority of services were caring, effective, responsive and safe.
Despite this, the report found that a fifth of services were not carrying out the necessary checks when hiring staff and nearly a quarter were incorrectly storing medicine. Some providers also failed to monitor the performance of out-of-hours services or communicate concerns over staff working hours.
Although these issues are not considered serious enough to result in formal regulatory action, it is important that we as a nation are able to highlight problems that can affect the standards of care that patients are receiving. By recognising and drawing attention to concerns, measures can be put in place to ensure that they do not continue.
The report shows that on the whole the system is providing safe and effective care for patients. Moreover, with the current shortage of GP appointments available during normal working hours, these out-of-hours services are necessary to ease the pressures on overworked staff. Couple this with the fact that some people struggle to attend regular appointments due to jobs and other responsibilities, and they become a critical part of what the English healthcare system can provide.
At Fletchers Solicitors we believe that these findings show that out-of-hours services do work well for patients on the whole. However, for people to regain faith when using them, care standards must continue to improve. It is also equally important to ensure that high standards are maintained across all services provided by the NHS so that everyone has access to an excellent level of care.